April 10, 2016
EVANSTON, Ill. -
By Leigh Torbin
For the second Sunday in a row, the No. 5 Notre Dame women's lacrosse team battled valiantly on the road after falling in an early hole, pulling to within three goals, but were unable to complete its stirring comeback attempt.
After No. 13 Northwestern pulled out to a 10-3 lead at Lakeside Field, the Irish rattled off five of the next six goals to make the score 11-8, but the Wildcats eventually came away with 17-12 victory in a matchup of what is usually the top two teams in the Midwest.
All-American Cortney Fortunato had a hand in seven of Notre Dame's first nine goals, scoring five times and adding a pair of assists before being sent off for a second yellow card. Rachel Sexton picked up four points on a goal and three assists while All-American midfielders Casey Pearsall and Alex Dalton scored twice each for the Irish who stand at 10-4 after the loss.
Notre Dame outshot the Wildcats 16-10 after intermission, held a 10-8 edge in draw controls and a 10-5 ground ball advantage but, ultimately, could not overcome a first half where Northwestern held a 12-1 margin on draw controls while leading (albeit less dramatically) in several other critical categories.
The first two goals of the game were tallied by the Irish. Fortunato scored 2:53 into the contest, set up by Grace Muller. Northwestern controlled the ensuing draw but Sexton caused a turnover and Pearsall scored, unassisted, 41 seconds after Fortunato to give the Irish a 2-0 cushion.
Unfortunately, 10 of the next 11 goals in the game would come off of Wildcat sticks, five of them coming on either side of a goal by Stephanie Toy set up by Fortunato at 12:02 of the first half. Northwestern's Selena Lasota scored four of her five goals on the day during this stretch .
Fortunato halted the run 2:40 into the second half., set up by Kiera McMullan. After single strikes from Sexton and Pearsall followed by a pair of Fortunato tallies, the Irish trailed by just three goals, 11-8, with 16:26 to play.
Northwestern scored three of the next for markers, however, to wrestle back control of the contest. The Irish continued to fight, getting goals from Dalton and Muller in the final 5:27 but could not score enough to claim victory.
The Irish return home next weekend after this three-game road trip. Notre Dame will play host to No. 15 Duke at noon on Saturday in its ACC finale. Notre Dame stands at 3-3 and will be shooting for its best league finish. Monday, Irish fans will see a familiar foe in a new setting as Notre Dame welcomes No. 7 USC to Arlotta Stadium for the first-ever women's lacrosse meeting between the ancient football rivals.
Leigh Torbin, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2013 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame women's lacrosse team while serving as the football publicity team's top lieutenant. A native of Framingham, Massachusetts, Torbin graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in sports management. He has previously worked full-time on the athletic communications staffs at Vanderbilt, Florida, Connecticut and UCF.